What is religious freedom anyway?

I was struggling to get inspiration for a post then I remembered how I enjoy talking about religion and maybe I could think of something relating to that. I love watching Grey’s Anatomy and I remembered watching an episode about an ethical dilemma (of which there is no shortage of in the programme) which involved a strong religious view. I found it, and re-watched it, now finally I have my inspiration for this post 🙂 

The dilemma

In episode 13 of season 9, a teenage boy is rushed into the ER after sustaining serious injuries after getting hit by a car while skateboarding. The boy has some serious heart problems and is losing a lot of blood, he desperately needs a blood transfusion. The doctor orders a few units of blood and at that moment a tag falls out from the boy’s pocket, which says that he is a Johovah’s Witness, which changes everything. Johovah’s Witnesses cannot accept any form of blood transfusion, even in life-or-death situations. 

The doctor is forced to stop the blood from being administered, perform heart surgery without any extra blood and watch as she does everything she possibly can to save her patient before he passes away. An intern doctor felt horrified at this situation and tried acting against her orders by giving him blood, she was caught out just before it was connected to him. She could not understand how you could abide by a religious rule that she thought was not at the best interest of the patient. 

The patient soon passed away.

The problem was that the patient was a minor and his parents had to make the decision to not give him blood. The child could of had a different religious belief and if able to might of made a different decision. But the doctors had to trust that the parents included this into their decision-making process.  

Is religion really that important? 

We as medical professionals need to respect each and every view of our patient, including their religious beliefs, because that is what’s important to the patient. Even if it differs from our own beliefs. Religion is often a huge part of a patient’s identity and it is just as important as every other aspect of the patient’s life. It would be wrong not to respect it.

But should a religious rule control medical decisions, especially ones that are in conflict with ‘the best medical treatment for the patient’? Who even determines that? 

On the other hand

Being a doctor and having to make that decision must be so hard. It is (for some) going against your own morals, going against your innate tendency to do good for your patient. On the one hand you would be going against the patient’s right to the best medical treatment, but giving the patient treatment that is contrary to the their belief would not be giving the patient their right to autonomy. To go against something you believe in for the sake of remaining ethically correct is hard. Incredibly hard, impossible for some.

What is the solution?

There is no easy answer. In the end, you cannot break ethical code just to satisfy your own needs. Finding a solution should be personalised because we are all have different beliefs. Somewhere in the process we need to change our mindset that spirituality is important and needs to be taken into account. And sometimes we need to accept that we may not always know what is ‘best’ for our patients. 

I personally would find this really hard if I were in that ‘Grey’s’ situation, I would feel very conflicted. But it doesn’t come down to what I feel, it comes down to what is right for the patient and I must learn to accept that. 


One thought on “What is religious freedom anyway?

  1. Hi Kristen. This is an interesting dilemma to explore and I would have liked for you to take it another step so that it wasn’t just about a TV show. There are many real world examples of these situtation, including legal cases where parents have sued doctors, and doctors sued parents, in order to uphold this right to make decisions about your life based on your beliefs. The principle of autonomy comes into play here, which would have been good to have been included in the reflection. As I said, it’s a good premise and it could have been quite powerful to explore the different perspectives with a more solid foundation than a TV show and your own thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s